NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 17, 2007

More than 90,000 Americans get potentially deadly infections each year from a drug-resistant staph "superbug," according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The new study offers the broadest look yet at the pervasiveness of the most severe infections caused by the bug, called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).  The researchers' estimates are extrapolated from nine mostly urban regions considered representative of the country.  Their results:

  • There were 5,287 invasive infections reported in people living in those regions, which would translate to an estimated 94,360 cases nationally.
  • There were 988 reported deaths among infected people in the study, for a rate of 6.3 per 100,000.
  • That would translate to 18,650 deaths annually, although the researchers don't know if MRSA was the cause in all cases.

If these deaths were all related to staph infections, the total would exceed other better-known causes of death including AIDS -- which killed an estimated 17,011 Americans in 2005 -- said Dr. Elizabeth Bancroft of the Los Angeles County Health Department.

The results underscore the need for better prevention measures.  That includes curbing the overuse of antibiotics and improving hand-washing and other hygiene procedures among hospital workers, said the CDC's Dr. Scott Fridkin, a study co-author.

Source: Lindsey Tanner, "Staph Fatalities May Exceed AIDS Deaths," Associated Press, October 17, 2007.


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